Last summer, the City of Philadelphia dodged a bullet when the Mayor Nutter’s aggressive effort to pass AVI was rebuffed by City Council. But this fortunate turn of events did not solve the problem, it simply kicked the can down the road to 2014. And with news that next year’s assessments will be sent out in the middle of February, homeowners are again beginning to feel that sense of dread that their property taxes are about to skyrocket. And many of them are right to feel that way, because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Some Fishtowners will see taxes go way up, others won't

One piece of good news, which really drives home the point that waiting was the right move, is that the expected tax rate being discussed is 1.3%, down from a rate of 1.8% that was bandied about last summer. But there are no guarantees for the tax rate, because the final number will have much to do with the choices made by City Council in terms of exemptions, tax increase limitations, smoothing, and a tax floor.

On the floor of City Council tomorrow is Bill 120340-AAA which will limit the certified market value increase for long-term residents to 300%. On its face, this seems fair and reasonable, as it will protect homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods from enormous tax increases. More problematic is the fact that this bill, in conjunction with an expected homestead exemption, will bring down the property tax bills for vast swaths of the population down to $100/year or less. Without a floor for property tax payments of, say $500, these measures will force the tax rate up, and will dramatically increase the burden for newer homeowners and people who own homes worth over $100K.

2200 block of Manton, where many homeowners will have annual tax bills of $200-$300

Six blocks away. The 2200 block of Montrose, where many residents will have annual tax bills of $3,000-$4,000

AVI is a complicated issue with many layers, and several neighborhood groups are attempting to get out in front of it by holding public meetings to inform their communities about what AVI is and how it will impact them. Tonight, at 6:30, at Shiloh Baptist Church at 21st & Christian, SOSNA will be hosting an event with speakers from OPA, the agency that’s behind the new assessments, and Pew Charitable Trusts, authors of a lengthy report on AVI. Pennsport Civic will be hosting a similar meeting on Monday, January 28th at 7pm, at the Ed O’Malley Athletic Association at 2nd & Moore. Surely, other groups will soon follow.

AVI is probably the most important policy decision that will be made in Philadelphia this decade. Properly implemented, it will make a broken property tax system more fair, and make our city a more equitable place to live. Executed improperly, we could see stifled development, underwater homeowners, budding neighborhoods damaged beyond repair, and a staggering number of residents moving outside the city limits as quickly as possible. Education and engagement is the only way to make sure that this thing is done right-so keep up on the news, attend a public meeting, form an opinion, and call, email, fax, write, or telegram your councilperson to make sure that your voice is heard.

So… see you tonight? Next Monday?